The days of stadia like Old Trafford, Emirates, Stamford Bridge and Etihad bursting at the seams with raucous colour-coded football fans appear to be long past. These days the few supporters who do pitch up at matches are stooped, silver haired and largely silent. The singing and inimitable vibe that has made the premier League legendary across the world is dissipating at an alarming rate. Youngsters are more inclined to play online casino games or set up their own virtual football leagues than make for the terraces in full voice.
TV Viewership of Premier League Matches in Decline
It’s not only bums on seats that are not materialising. TV viewership is on a sustained downward trend despite the billions upon billions of pounds shelled out for the rights to broadcast the games. What used to be an ardent fan base in the UK has dissolved into a constantly evaporating puddle of pundits. Despite the spin emanating from the Premier League clubs, the golden era of England’s top flight appears to be over.
What’s driving the decline? According to the club faithful it’s a combination of exorbitantly high ticket prices and too many leagues matches that fall well short of the moniker, the beautiful game. Scratch a little deeper and football – as with all sports – is failing to attract the next generation of young and enthusiastic supporters.
Ticket Prices Beyond the Reach of Working Class Brits
League bosses are still convinced they are offering a product that is simply irresistible. As a result, ticket prices have soared, often beyond the reach of the ordinary fan. Season ticket holders at the big clubs like Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea are expected to cough up over £1 000… and that’s for the cheap seats. Considering the state of the economy and with financial red flags like Brexit looming large, that sort of outlay is above and beyond what most working class Brits can afford.
Quality of Games Don’t Justify High Prices
That’s not the only quibble. High prices equate to premium quality. If the product doesn’t deliver, no-one is going to pay dearly for a sub-par experience. Sadly, the quest for top of the table results has come at a cost. Many of the top performing clubs in terms of win percentage have sacrificed an exciting brand of football for points tally. Let’s face it, if you’re a die-hard supporter of just about any football club you want to see the team win and win in style. Why pay ‘top dollar’ to watch a season dominated by boring draw after draw?
Average Viewership Plummets by 10 Percent
However higher ticket prices don’t translate into declining TV audiences. If anything, you’d think that more football fans would turn on their TVs to watch the likes of Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah, Sergio Aguero, Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne strut their stuff. As recent data from Sky TV proves, the converse is in fact true. According to the stats average viewership of premier league games fell by a whopping 10 percent in 2016/17 compared to the preceding season. All indications are the trend will continue into the current season… and way beyond.
How does the league justify charging the huge amounts of money for broadcasting rights? Well the cumulative audience of top flight matches worldwide has boomed by nine percent year-on-year with China, the United States, Brazil and Africa among the biggest supporters of what used to be a quintessentially British product.
Youngsters Looking Elsewhere for Entertainment
Arguably the biggest problem for the league is that it is failing to attract young people. The cost factor is but one obvious hurdle that can be easily overcome. A more pressing issue is the ever-increasing volume of fun stuff that’s available online and in the real world. Throw in augmented reality and wearable devices that transport you to any conceivable environment and there’s no real need for folk to even leave home to tap into awesome entertainment.
Virtual Leagues Capable of Attracting Millions of Viewers
Kids can live stream just about anything on their devices and enjoy movies, live shows and a host of other red-hot entertainment on-demand. The Premier League is now competing with the likes of Netflix, YouTube and immersive video games.
Moreover, there’s been a concerted shift away from real world football. Youngsters are far more enamoured with virtual football leagues populated by imaginary players, where ‘games’ are played online. These make-believe sporting contests are not to be scoffed at as they are quite capable of attracting audiences of two million and more!
How to Bring the X-Factor Back into the English Premier League
If the Premier League wants to survive and flourish, the powers that be have to recognise that an exciting brand of football and affordable ticket prices are key to getting people back into the stadia. At the end of the day, it’s always been the extraordinary atmosphere created by thousands of chanting and singing supporters that’s been the backbone of the Premiership brand. Without full houses even, the legions of international viewers will eventually switch across to another channel.
Is the Premier League losing its dazzle? According to the numbers it is… but with a little bit of vision and a lot less greed there’s still time for the top flight to re-invent itself for a new generation of fans.